Vancouver police officers claim union reps told them not to take notes after death of Myles Gray
Allegations from investigation report implicate current and former president of Vancouver Police Union
Four Vancouver police officers accused of misconduct for failing to take any notes after the encounter that killed Myles Gray claim they did so at the direction of the Vancouver Police Union, according to an investigative report obtained by CBC News.
The allegations, which implicate both the current and former president of the union, are contained in a 278-page final report prepared by Richmond RCMP Sgt. Robert Nash on an order from the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner (OPCC).
One constable who was on the scene when Gray died on Aug. 13, 2015, told the investigator that "he was directed by the union not to make any handwritten notes while waiting on the seventh floor of VPD headquarters after the incident," according to the report, dated Feb. 24, 2022.
The officer said "he was about to make his handwritten notes when he was advised not to; he would have made notes if he hadn't been provided direction from the union not to make notes," Nash wrote.
Although the officer couldn't recall who told him not to take notes, he said Vancouver Police Union (VPU) president Ralph Kaisers was one of two union representatives present at the time.
The same constable alleged Kaisers directed him not to make an official police statement until seven months after Gray was killed, which was "not a common practice," the report says.
Another constable told Nash that "he believed this direction not to make notes was given by the former union president Tom Stamatakis."
Two other officers corroborated the allegation that they were directed not to take notes by union representatives.
Stamatakis, who is now president of the Canadian Police Association, told CBC in a written message that he hasn't read the full report, "but I will say that's not advice I would provide."
Kaisers declined to comment, saying he was bound to confidentiality by the Police Act.
Simon Fraser University criminologist Rob Gordon, who is a former police officer, described the claims of union interference as shocking.
"The optics of that are absolutely appalling," he told CBC. "I'm just astonished by this. The taking of notes is very important in any police investigation, any police inquiry, because police officers will have fallible memories."
He said the purpose of contemporaneous notes is to serve as a memory aid when officers are asked about events at a later time, and there are strict rules about how police notebooks are handled to avoid any suspicion of manipulation.
As a result of Nash's investigation, a total of six Vancouver police officers are set to face a hearing in April on Police Act charges of neglect of duty for their failure to take notes about what happened the day Gray died. Two of those officers told Nash they could not recall being told not to take notes, the report says.
All six constables, plus an additional officer, are also accused of abuse of authority through the use of unnecessary force.
The discipline process is led by Metro Vancouver Transit Police Chief David Jones, under the oversight of the OPCC. If the allegations are proven, the officers could face discipline up to and including dismissal from the VPD.
Nash's report cites a 2013 decision from the Supreme Court of Canada that confirms police have a duty "to prepare accurate, detailed, and comprehensive notes as soon as practicable after an investigation."
It also refers to VPD policy requiring officers to keep daily written records of their activities.
Nash wrote that any direction from the union "would not have provided good or sufficient cause not to make notes."
Nine VPD officers were the only witnesses to Gray's death in a Burnaby, B.C., backyard.
The unarmed 33-year-old was making a delivery for his Sechelt-based florist business when police were called after he confronted a South Vancouver homeowner for watering her lawn during an extended drought.
Officers restrained Gray's arms and legs, punched, kicked and kneed him, pepper-sprayed him and struck him with a baton, according to a report from the B.C. Prosecution Service. The officers involved claimed Gray was aggressive and displaying "superhuman strength" during their efforts to subdue him, according to Nash's report.
Despite an extensive list of injuries — including a fractured voice box, several broken bones and a ruptured testicle — forensic experts have never been able to pinpoint Gray's cause of death.
The Independent Investigations Office investigated and forwarded a report to Crown in the belief the officers may have committed a crime.
But in December 2020, the B.C. Prosecution Service announced that none of the officers would be criminally charged, in part because of the lack of witnesses and uncertainty surrounding the cause of death.